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Prosecutors face many challenges in child pornography cases

In Minnesota, an individual under the age of 18 is legally considered to be a minor. Both federal and state laws exist to protect minors from suffering exploitation and harm. Laws related to child pornography are among some of the strictest and individuals who either knowingly or unknowingly violate these laws face severe penalties.

Minnesota child pornography laws strictly prohibit the use of minors in any sexual performance and the possession or dissemination of any materials depicting minors engaged in sexual acts. In recent years, arrests related to child pornography have increased across the country as technology now allows law enforcement officials to more easily identify and track the locations of computers where sexually-explicit images or videos that depict minors downloaded or shared.

An individual who is arrested and facing charges related to child pornography would be wise to exercise his or her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and to immediately retain a criminal defense attorney. After consulting with one's attorney, there are a number of defenses that may be used to help defend against the prosecution's evidence and claims.

For example, an individual may have unknowingly or unintentionally downloaded the materials in question onto a computer or someone other than the defendant may have downloaded the materials. In these types of cases, the burden of proof falls on the prosecution to provide compelling evidence that refutes the defense's claims and, as is cited in one 2013 study, prosecutors in child pornography cases often cite "encountering difficulties with computer forensics or a police investigation."

Other possible defenses to child pornography charges include individuals who are found to suffer from an addiction or mental illness as well as an assertion that the materials in question do not meet the qualifying criteria for child pornography. A defense attorney who has successfully handled these types of cases will work to defend against and get charges dismissed or reduced.

Source: University of New Hampshire, "Prosecution Dilemmas and Challenges for Child Pornography Crimes: The Third National Juvenile Online Victimization Study,” Wendy Walsh, Janis Wolak, & David Finkelhor, January 2013

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